Posted by Emily Risch on July 25, 2019 at 1:06 PM
Congressman Don Beyer Reintroduces
Fair Representation Act
Ground-breaking reform package introduced after SCOTUS ruling that federal courts have no role to play in preventing partisan gerrymandering
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 25, 2019
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court invited Congress to end partisan gerrymandering last month -- and today U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08) took them up on that offer and reintroduced the Fair Representation Act. If enacted, it would represent, the most far-reaching set of electoral reforms in modern American history.
U.S. Rep. Beyer was joined in introducing the bill by Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jim Cooper (D-TN), and Jim McGovern (D-MA).
Under the Fair Representation Act, all U.S. House members will be elected by ranked-choice voting in new, larger multi-winner districts. This system would replace today’s map of safe red and blue seats that lock voters into non competitive districts, and elect members of Congress with little incentive to work together and solve problems.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold political gerrymandering is the latest in a series of terrible setbacks for our democracy, and our legislation would help put the country back on the right track,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “At a time when Americans have waning faith in institutions and political leadership, the Fair Representation Act would help restore the faith which so many have lost in our political system. This bill would ensure that every voter has their voice represented in Congress, and make real progress towards bipartisan focus on getting results for the American people.”
The bill, which Rep. Beyer first unveiled in 2017, would combat gerrymandering, spur meaningful elections, mitigate polarization, spark greater diversity in our politics, and, most importantly, grant voters a real voice and choice in every congressional election.
“Congress must fix partisan gerrymandering, yet can't stop with independent commissions. We must replace winner-take-all elections with the Fair Representation Act to represent the millions of voters who, defying partisan stereotypes, could bridge our seemingly unbridgeable political divides. Ensuring every voter matters in every election is the best way to reverse what has become quite literally a death spiral for our constitutional order,” says Rob Richie, president and CEO of FairVote.
This legislation directly addresses the most crucial problem in our democracy: A winner-take-all electoral system fundamentally broken by political geography and a dangerous new era of fierce polarization. Upwards of 85 percent of Americans live in districts increasingly skewed toward one party -- whether those lines were drawn by partisans or by independent commissions. Too many votes simply don’t matter. The current system incentivizes partisans to play to their base, destroys electoral accountability, and discourages innovation or crossing party lines. It’s voters who suffer.
The Fair Representation Act gives voters across all ideologies and backgrounds the power to elect House members who reflect their views. It provides voters with greater choice and provides a fair reflection of voter preferences -- a political majority elects the most seats, but everyone earns their fair share, including urban Republicans, rural Democrats and innovative thinkers of all kinds. Independents and third-party candidates could run without being spoilers.
The founder and executive director of RepresentWomen Cynthia Terrell says, “No single reform would create more opportunities for women and people of color from across the spectrum to compete in fair elections. It is central to our vision of how we achieve parity for women in congressional elections.”
Here’s how it works: Smaller states with five or fewer members will elect all representatives from one statewide, at-large district. States with more than six will draw multi-winner districts of three to five representatives each. Congress will remain the same size, but districts will be larger.
They will be elected through ranked-choice voting, an increasingly common electoral method used in many American cities as well as in most every election in Maine as well as six Democratic presidential caucuses or primaries in 2020. Voters rank candidates in order of choice, ensuring that as many voters as possible help elect a candidate they support. Under ranked-choice voting, if no candidate reaches the threshold needed to win, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. When a voter’s top choice loses, their vote instantly goes to their second choice. The process repeats until all seats are elected.
Using this approach, four in five voters would elect someone they support. The number of voters in position to swing a seat would immediately triple -- from less than 15 percent in 2016, to just under half.
The districts themselves will be drawn by state-created, independent commissions made up of ordinary citizens. These larger districts would be nearly impossible to gerrymander for political advantage – and would force politicians to seek out voters with different perspectives and remain accountable to them.
"Americans across the political spectrum are growing increasingly frustrated with our system that offers binary choices and privileges the ideological extremes. Reforms like those in the Fair Representation Act would begin to address the simmering anger at our political system and ensure that our democracy truly represents the variety of perspectives in our country," says Lenae Erickson, senior vice president of Third Way.
FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans. Since its founding in 1992, FairVote has advocated for this comprehensive reform vision, and applauds the reintroduction of the Fair Representation Act as a monumental step forward for election reform.